Monday, 28 October 2013

Windmills of your Mind

A small scrap of sadness this week. The death of Noel Harrison. The son of the actor, Rex Harrison who so brilliantly talked his way through the songs in the film of the musical My Fair Lady as Professor Higgins, Noel Harrison is otherwise only known to me as the singer of the Oscar-winning theme of The Thomas Crown Affair, Windmills of your Mind. Surprisingly, since I was only 12 at the time, I bought the single of Windmills of your Mind and its poignant lyrics still resonate with me now.

It seems an appropriate song for this time of year as autumn tends to have a less than uplifting effect on my own mental windmills and there seem to be a lot of endings and departings just now. Not that I didn't love the celebration of autumn colours on our last weekend trip to the Lakes to Low Graythwaite Hall with our village chums. The trees were definitely dressed in their stunning autumn best and the roaring evening fire that greeted us on arrival was perfectly in tune with the mood. After a massive and delicious feed, charades were next on the menu and no-one present is going to forget the singing dancing doctor's mime of The Pelican Brief for a long time! The following morning, segway (again!) and a picturesque walk round a rather small lake followed by a very big lunch was the order of the day before returning home to a surprisingly tidy house and two tired children, one of whom had had two very chilly nights under canvas. No, we didn't chuck him out, it was part of his A level PE.

On Tuesday we said farewell to a lovely man, Charlie Clayton, who had been in our outer circle of friends for more years than I care to recall and with whom I had also had the pleasure of working. He was just one year older than me and his funeral was a testament to his fun-filled, friend-packed, all-too-short life. He was a kind and generous man and if ever a funeral reflected this, his did in spades.

It's a sign of the season too when southern friends start dropping in to stay on their way to shoot in the North. However late at night the last glass of red is consumed, the following morning they are up early and dressed in their shooting breeks ready to be off and away to kill things. As long as they don't want me to join in, it's fine by me.

And then, my beloved's younger brother, with whom we have shared many holidays and so much fun, arrived on Friday. He is having a mid-life gap year and setting off this week to Austria to be a ski instructor for a season. His parents (MIL and my beloved's step-father) live nearby and they came for a slap-up tea, allowing me to indulge in some post-Great British Bake Off cake and scone-making and I am rather proud of my made-it-up-as-I-went-along blackberry and apple muffins. Less proud, of course, of my scones which I could have rebranded as fat biscuits!

Over breakfast this morning, we suggested to BIL (brother in law) that he adopt a different persona for every week of his sojourn as a ski instructor on the basis that he will be teaching a completely new group each time. We hope he will start with his own take on Leslie Phillips ("Ding Dong") as he has already mastered the voice. He seemed less keen on blacking up for a week even though my beloved offered him one of his many shades of make-up to take with him. Apparently, even Sri Lankan tones didn't appeal.

So, as I write, the autumn leaves are being ripped off the trees by Hurricane Jude and the last of the apples will no doubt be strewn across the lawn by the time we get back from watching Newcastle Falcons play London Irish at Kingston Park with our friend Declan O'Kidney this afternoon. Definitely time to batten down the hatches and prepare for winter.

If you'd like to listen to Noel Harrison, forever dressed in a polo neck sweater, which is how I remember him, here's the link:

Postscript: Between the writing of my blog and finally getting it out in the ether, another of my musical heroes, Lou Reed, has also passed away. Walk on the Wild Side was one of the anthems of my sixteen year old self, and had my parents been able to discern the lyrics they would, I am sure, not have allowed me to play it at such volume. "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side..."

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

What Grannies get up to!

I don't know what the collective noun for grannies is but I'm working on it because we seem to have had a very granny-filled few days up here.

The intrepid granny arrived on Thursday and when she is about to join us for four days, or four weeks, I know I need to be well-rested and physically at my peak because grannies can be exhausting! TIG (the intrepid granny) arrived by train on Thursday lunchtime and before we had left the environs of York, we had to stop at the garden centre. Granny on a mission! Actually, TIG is especially good at doing all my pots and troughs in the garden so off we go round the garden centre picking up bargains of the plant and bulb variety using her special club membership - grannies certainly have an eye for a good deal! So car packed with suitcase, heather, pansies and bulbs we head back to the little house on the prairie for what was an action-packed and exhausting few days.

Thursday evening was the gala event for the Harrogate Antiques Fair and as each year, Acorn (my charity, in the membership sense) is the Fair's nominated charity, I had to head into town in the early evening appropriately dressed in my LBD for some hostessing/raffle ticket-selling action. My beloved and number 2 child brought TIG along for some wine-quaffing and general browsing later in the evening and she met up with a posse (there's the collective noun, now I come to think of it) of other grannies. A family dinner later and we're back home because we need to pace ourselves for the action ahead!

Friday morning and we're out early because granny, having threatened but not actually made any major purchases at the Antiques Fair the night before, needs retail therapy so a little light shopping in Harrogate was in order. We had to get back in plenty of time because she was being collected for some granny bridge which she and the granny posse of the night before had planned. I'm sure she said she'd be back in a couple of hours but nearly four hours later, and rather giddy, she returned. She absolutely assured me that no wine had been consumed (the jury is still out on this one) but she had acquired all sorts of village gossip (my village, not her's) that I didn't know. Aah, well, that's grannies for you - always in the know.

On Saturday morning, I headed up to the village courts for some social tennis and TIG said she would walk (about a mile and a half) up to meet me. She arrived, impressing my friends with her energy at walking from home. Actually, my beloved had given her lift to the end of the lane but we didn't let on! So wrapped in everyone's sweatshirts like a cricket umpire she watched the tennis, dodging the odd ball and refusing to be ball girl.

After lunch, I thought I might have forty winks on the settee as we were due to go out on Saturday night and I thought a pre-nap might be in order. Apparently TIG didn't notice me on the settee and bellowed at me at very short range to help her with the gardening. So much for a nap. She said something like ... I was wearing the same colours as the settee so she didn't notice me there ... but I think she was just cracking the whip really.

On Sunday morning, after a bit of personal-statement-for-university stuff with number 3, I'm back to the Antiques Fair for my three hour shift with number 2 child. More raffle ticket selling and then just as we are getting to the end, along comes TIG. She's checking out a few more jewellers and antique dealers before we go off for lunch at Betty's at Harlow Carr and a nice long walk round the gardens. No rest for the wicked then. So finally back home and as I glance at my facebook page, I see a video of another granny doing Gangnam Style along with her family on Saturday night.

How do they do it? I can barely keep up. Whatever they're on, we definitely need to be taking it.

Three generations and my mum (TIG) looking particularly fab!

The intrepid granny at Harlow Carr, refereeing the boxing hares.